This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Filed April 18, 2006
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Pat Ciliberto, Scott County Attorney, Michael J. Groh, Assistant County Attorney, JC340 Justice Center, 200 Fourth Avenue West, Shakopee, MN 55379 (for respondent Scott County Human Services)
Marymartha S. Bettner, Post Office Box 674, Prior Lake, MN 55372 (respondent guardian ad litem)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
On appeal from the termination of her parental rights, appellant G.M.M. argues that the record lacks clear and convincing evidence supporting findings that (1) she failed to abide by her parental duties; (2) she was a palpably unfit parent; (3) reasonable efforts failed to correct the conditions leading to the children’s placement; and (4) the children are neglected and in foster care. Appellant also argues that the district court did not adequately address the children’s best interests and that the best-interests findings are not supported by the record. Because there is clear and convincing evidence in the record to support the district court’s findings, we affirm.
Appellant is the mother of two children, C.C.R., born August 2, 2000, and C.D.R. born June 6, 2003. In March 2004, the district court adjudicated the children in need of protection or services after appellant was arrested for a probation violation for failing to keep her probation officer informed of her current address. Appellant was subsequently released from jail and began to comply with the case plan, which included treatment at Eden House for her methamphetamine addiction. But shortly after her children were returned to her in July 2004, appellant disappeared from Eden House with the children. Although the children were returned to foster care four months later, appellant waited until January 2005 to turn herself over to authorities.
In April 2005, respondent Scott County Human Services filed a petition to terminate appellant’s parental rights under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b) (2004). The district court granted the petition.
This court reviews the district
court’s order terminating parental rights to determine whether (1) the
district court has identified at least one of the statutory bases for termination, now found at Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)
(2004); (2) the district court’s findings are supported by substantial
evidence; and (3) the district court’s conclusions are not clearly erroneous. In re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d 393, 396 (
The district court here identified five considerations
for termination: (1) neglect of parental
duties, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2); (2) palpable unfitness to be a
party to the parent and child relationship, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd.
1(b)(4); (3) failure of reasonable efforts to correct conditions that led to an
out-of-home placement, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5); (4) the children
are neglected and in foster care, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(8); and
(5) the best interests of the children, Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 7
(2004). The district court need find that
only one of the statutory conditions exists to terminate parental rights. In re Welfare of P.J.K., 369 N.W.2d 286, 290 (
A. Neglect of parental duties
Appellant challenges the finding that she neglected to comply with the duties imposed by the parent-child relationship. Those duties include “providing the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, education, and other care and control necessary for the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health and development, if the parent is physically and financially able.” Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2).
Appellant argues that the county failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that she substantially, continuously, or repeatedly refused or neglected to comply with her parental duties under section 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(2). We disagree. The district court found, and the record reflects, that appellant neglected to provide the children with necessary medical and dental care. The record reflects that C.C.R.’s teeth were decaying so badly that she required dental surgery, that C.D.R. was not up to date with his immunizations, and that C.D.R. required treatment for some hearing loss. Moreover, when appellant was questioned about the children’s lack of medical attention, she revealed that she had not applied for medical assistance for them because she was afraid that the application process would alert her probation agent as to her whereabouts and lead to her arrest on active warrants.
The record also reflects
that appellant failed to provide the children with a safe environment. After disappearing from Eden House, appellant
and the children moved into the home of her former husband, who had been
abusive to appellant in the past. After
B. Palpably unfit
Appellant also contends that the county failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that she was palpably unfit to be a party to the parent and child relationship under Minn. Stat. § 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(4). The statute provides that parental rights may be terminated upon a showing
that a parent is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent and child relationship because of a consistent pattern of specific conduct before the child or of specific conditions directly relating to the parent and child relationship either of which are determined by the court to be of a duration or nature that renders the parent unable, for the reasonably foreseeable future, to care appropriately for the ongoing physical, mental, or emotional needs of the child.
Here, the district court found and the record reflects that appellant will be unable to care for the children’s needs in the reasonably foreseeable future. She has not been employed for more than 12 years, had no job or job prospects at the time of the hearing, and had no adequate plans for housing or transportation. The record also reflects that appellant has displayed a pattern of substance abuse, poor decision-making, and placing her own needs above the needs of her children. Moreover, appellant consistently avoids the consequences of her actions, as she demonstrated by her evasion of her probation officer. Appellant’s constant moving deprived the children of any stability. Although appellant has made an effort to pursue sobriety, the record reflects that she has not stayed sober for more than a few months. Consequently, clear and convincing evidence shows that appellant is palpably unfit to be a party to the parent and child relationship.
C. Reasonable efforts
Appellant argues that the county
failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that reasonable efforts failed
to correct the conditions leading to the children’s placement under Minn. Stat.
§ 260C.301, subd. 1(b)(5), providing that, when a child has been placed out of
the home, failure to correct the conditions leading to the placement, after
reasonable, court-directed efforts, is a basis for termination. Minn. Stat. § 260C.301,
subd. 1(b)(5). There is a presumption
that reasonable efforts to correct the conditions have failed if (1) when the CHIPS
petition was filed, a
child under the age of eight has resided outside of the home for six months,
unless the parent has maintained regular contact with the child and is
complying with the out-of-home placement plan; (2) there is a court-approved
plan; (3) conditions leading to placement have not been corrected and the
parent has not substantially complied with the case plan; and (4) the social-services
agency has made a reasonable effort to rehabilitate the parent and reunite the
When the CHIPS petition was filed in March 2004, both C.C.R. and C.D.R. were under the age of eight and both children have now resided outside of appellant’s home for more than six months. Although appellant maintained or attempted to maintain regular contact with the children when they were in foster care, the evidence indicates that she failed to comply with the out-of-home placement plan. While appellant expressed a desire to comply with the case plan when the CHIPS petition was filed, she ultimately failed to complete the case-plan requirements.
The district court’s
D. Neglected and in foster care
Appellant argues further that the county failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the children were “neglected and in foster care.” Minn. Stat. § 260.C301, subd. 1(b)(8). A child is neglected and in foster care if: (1) the child has been placed in foster care by court order; (2) the parents’ circumstances, condition, or conduct is such that the child cannot be returned to them; and (3) the child’s parents have “failed to make reasonable efforts to adjust their circumstances, condition or conduct, or have willfully failed to meet reasonable expectations with regard to visiting the child or providing financial support for the child.” Minn. Stat. § 260C.007, subd. 24 (2004). To determine whether a child is neglected and in foster care, the court shall consider, among other non-exclusive factors, the appropriateness and adequacy of services provided or offered to the parent to facilitate a reunion. Minn. Stat. § 260C.163, subd. 9(5) (2004).
Here, the children have been in
foster care since March 2004. Despite
E. Best interests
Finally, appellant argues that the
best interests of the children should not have been considered by the district
court before grounds for termination were proved. In the alternative, appellant argues that
The Minnesota Supreme Court has long
recognized the fundamental rights of parents to enjoy the custody and
companionship of their children, maintaining that a parent should not be
deprived of these rights “except for grave and weighty reasons.” In re Welfare of
Rosenbloom, 266 N.W.2d 888,
Three factors guide this court’s review of the
district court’s determination that termination is in the best interests of the
children: “(1) the child’s interest in
preserving the parent-child relationship; (2) the parent’s interest in
preserving the parent-child relationship; and (3) any competing interest of the
child.” In re Welfare of R.T.B., 492 N.W.2d 1, 4 (
Appellant argues that the district court erroneously considered the best interests of the children before grounds for termination were proved. We disagree. In the order terminating appellant’s parental rights, the district court concluded that termination was appropriate under four separate statutory bases. The district court then concluded that termination was in the children’s best interests. The children have been in foster care for more than a year. Although the record indicates that C.C.R. loves her mother and appellant loves her children, the children need a safe, stable, and permanent home. Foster care has provided the children with such a home. Evidence shows that the children were relieved to return to their foster home after appellant had disappeared with them from Eden House. We conclude that the district court properly determined that termination of appellant’s parental rights is in the best interests of her children.